The one technology that has made the largest impact on my business and personal life in the past year is the Palm Treo 650 (with a Goodlink connection to Exchange). This has allowed me to monitor my e-mail wherever I am –and e-mail is my primary method of business communication. As a result, I’ve felt less chained to my desk and more able to run quick errands, drop my son off at appointments or activities, etc. I don’t have to worry about missing a timely message or being disconnected from important e-mail threads among managers. Also, since I work on East Coast time but have a lot of colleagues on the West Coast, I can catch West Coast e-mails between 5:00 – 8:00 PM without being at my desk.

On the flip side, I probably check the thing too much. My worst habit is checking my messages when I’m at a restaurant between the time when ordering and waiting for the food to come. When I do this my wife often gives me the evil look and says, “There you go with that thing again!” I can definitely understand why some BlackBerry users refer to their device as the CrackBerry.

Nevertheless, the overall impact of the Treo 650 has been positive, at least from my perspective, and I do like the Treo smartphone for its usability features, a good battery life, and it’s strong connection for data (over the Verizon network, in my case). But the device still has a few problems. After using it for nearly a year, I’ve come up with a list of five things about the Treo 650 that regularly frustrate me. Here’s my list, in order from the least frustrating to the most frustrating:

5. No voice-activated dialing — The Treo 650 is a premium phone and anytime you’re dealing with a premium phone you expect it to have extra features along with the minimum standards that are available on less expensive phones. The Treo 650 includes nice extras like Bluetooth and a built-in camera, but it is missing one standard feature – voice-activated dialing. You can buy software to add that feature, but I think a phone this expensive should have it integrated.

4. Weak multimedia — The Treo 650 does a decent job of displaying photos, but its default music player and video player (RealPlayer) leave a lot to be desired, especially in usability. This smartphone has the power to be a nice little multimedia device, but it is not the multimedia powerhouse that it could be because the out-of-the-box multimedia features feel like an afterthought.

3. Bulky design — This smartphone is heavy and has one of the biggest old-style bulky antennas that I have seen on a phone in the past several years. This device is also so heavy that whenever I whip it out I have to make sure I have a good grip on it because it also has a very smooth case and with the added weight it can easily slide out of my hand and crash to the ground. The bulkiness can make it difficult to find the right case. I use a holster case that turns the phone on its side and attaches to my belt. It’s heavy enough that I almost always know it’s there.

2. Address book conflicts — One of the biggest annoyances for me – and this is more an issue with Goodlink than the Treo 650 – is that when the Goodlink software is installed it automatically suppresses the Contacts from the Palm software (synced from local computer) and replaces it with the Goodlink Contacts (synced from Exchange). I prefer to separate my business and personal contacts so that I don’t have my uncle Rick and my cousin Angela mixed in with my PR contacts from IBM and Dell. You can still get to your personal Contacts through the Palm software but after installing Goodlink they are no longer integrated with the phone. I’ve discovered a couple ways to workaround this, but it’s a major annoyance.

1. Underperforming phone – Again, when you purchase a premium phone you expect premium performance from it. As a cell phone alone, the Treo 650 doesn’t come anywhere near premium performance. In fact, it performs below many mid-range cell phones. The phone has trouble holding a connection at times, it has volume inconsistencies, it crackles and skips, and simply does not provide very good audio quality. In fact, the audio quality is not even close to being as good as my wife’s LG VX6100 – a solid mid-range model. That’s very disappointing for a phone that is so big and powerful.